20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a Disney Technicolor adventure film featured on ABC's Once Upon a Time. It was written by Earl Felton, and directed by Richard Fleischer. It was released on December 23, 1954.
In 1868, rumors of a sea monster attacking ships in the Pacific Ocean have created apprehension and fear among sailors, disrupting shipping lanes. The U.S. government invites Professor Pierre M. Aronnax and his assistant, Conseil, to join an expedition to prove or disprove the monster's existence. On board the frigate with them is the cocky master harpooner Ned Land.
After months of searching, the "monster" is spotted. After the warship fires its heavy cannons, the monster turns and attacks the frigate, crippling it. Ned and Aronnax are thrown overboard, as is a lifeboat, and Conseil jumps in after Aronnax to save him. Now helpless, the frigate drifts silently and no one aboard answers when the overboard passengers cry out for help. The three drift in the ocean, eventually coming upon a strange-looking metal vessel. They realize the "monster" is actually a man-made "submerging boat" that appears deserted. Inside, they find a large viewing port amidships and watch a strange underwater funeral procession.
Ned, Aronnax and Conseil are spotted, and as they attempt to leave in their lifeboat, the crew returns to their submarine and capture the castaways. The captain introduces himself as Nemo, master of the Nautilus. He returns Ned and Conseil to the deck, while offering Aronnax, whose name he recognizes from Aronnax's scientific work and research, the chance to stay. When Nemo discovers that Aronnax is willing to die with his companions, he finds out what he needed to know and allows Ned and Conseil to stay aboard.
Nemo takes Aronnax to the penal colony island of Rura Penthe. Nemo reveals he was once a prisoner there, as were many of his crew. The prisoners are loading an ammunition ship. The Nautilus later rams and sinks the ship at sea, destroying its cargo and killing its crew. An anguished Nemo tells Arronax that his actions have saved thousands from death in war; he also discloses that this "hated nation" tortured his wife and son to death while attempting to force from him the secrets of his advanced work. Ned discovers the coordinates of Nemo's secret base, Vulcania, and releases messages in bottles containing the island's isolated location, hoping somebody will find and free them from captivity.
Off the coast of New Guinea, the Nautilus becomes stranded on a reef. Ned is surprised when Nemo allows him to go ashore with Conseil, ostensibly to collect specimens. Ned goes off alone to explore avenues of escape. While kneeling at a pool to drink, he sees a number of human skulls on stakes. Realizing his danger, Ned runs for his life and rejoins Conseil as they are chased back to the Nautilus by cannibals. Despite remaining aground, Nemo is unconcerned, and the cannibals are repelled from the ship by electrical charges through the outer hull. Nemo is furious with Ned for not following his orders and confines him to the submarine's brig.
A warship approaches, firing on the Nautilus. It slides off the reef and down into the depths, where it attracts the attention of a giant squid. An electric hull charge fails to repel the creature, so Nemo and his men surface during a violent storm to dislodge the beast. Nemo is quickly caught in one of the squid's tentacles. Ned, having escaped from captivity during the struggle, harpoons the creature, killing it, and jumps to Nemo's rescue, saving his captor from drowning as the dead squid sinks away. As a result, Nemo has a change of heart and decides to make peace with the outside world.
As the Nautilus nears Vulcania, Nemo finds the island surrounded by warships, whose marines are converging on his hidden base in an interior lagoon. As Nemo goes ashore, Ned attempts to identify himself as the author of the bottled messages. Aronnax realizes this and becomes furious, recognizing that Nemo will soon destroy all evidence of his discoveries. Nemo triggers a time bomb in his large complex but is badly wounded from a bullet to his back while returning to the Nautilus. After haphazardly navigating the submarine away from Vulcania, Nemo announces he will be "taking the Nautilus down for the last time". Nemo's crew declare they will accompany their captain in death.
Aronnax, Conseil, and Ned are confined to their cabins. The Nautilus' crew also retreat to their cabins at Nemo's instructions. Ned breaks loose and manages to surface the Nautilus, hitting a reef in the process, causing the boat to begin flooding. Nemo staggers to his grand salon's viewing port, and as he looks into the depths of his beloved ocean he succumbs to his fatal rifle shot wound.
Aronnax tries to retrieve his journal, which contains an account of their voyage, but the urgency of their escape obliges Ned to knock him unconscious and carry him out. From the Nautilus' skiff, the companions witness Vulcania destroyed by an enormous explosion, and Ned apologizes to Aronnax for hitting him. As the now adrift Nautilus is swamped, it disappears beneath the waves, as Nemo's last words to Aronnax echo: "There is hope for the future. And when the world is ready for a new and better life, all this will someday come to pass, in God's good time".
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